Push, Pull, Legs
By Raymond Shipley
For the beginner, the question inevitably rises as to how often one should lift. Whenever one embarks on a new journey, through lands unknown, it is best to have a roadmap that leads to the desired destination. Unfortunately, many beginners make the mistake of following the lead and advice of those at different levels and goals, often far too advanced for the beginner, to truly maximize gains. So, for the beginner, what split is recommended?
The novice who has never lifted may best be served by taking Lee Haney's advice and utilizing circuit training until lifts are learned and injuries are most likely to be avoided. Circuit training consists of stacking exercises, one after another, for varying muscles, all in the same session. An example would be to do bench press, barbell row, overhead triceps extension and barbell curl in succession. Using this technique for several weeks can teach the beginner how to control the weight and contract the muscles.
Beyond this, I find the three-day split of push, pull, legs to be most beneficial. It offers the ability to adequately rest, or increase the frequency if necessary. The concept is simple: on day one, train pushing muscles, eg chest, shoulders and triceps; day two trains pulling muscles, eg back and biceps; day three train quads, hamstrings and calves. The beginner, as well as athletes using enough volume and intensity in each session, should include a rest day between workout days in order to adequately recover from rigorous lifting.
The average lifter needs time not only to recover from muscle damage between workouts, but also to allow elevated cortisol, suppressed testosterone, the immune system and T3 production to return to pre-workout levels. Not getting adequate rest can lead to overtraining, and a reversal of gains.
Bro-science claims lifting three days per week isn't enough, but I beg to differ. A bodybuilder does not add muscle while lifting, but rather while resting. Moreover, when I first began lifting I put on around 30 pounds of lean mass in six months using said training technique, and still return to it to help catapult me to new gains. One can't go wrong with such a basic training split, and unless it has been tried and found to be unsuccessful for the individual, I highly recommend giving it a go.